Psychological Self-Help

Navigation bar
  Home Print document View PDF document Start Previous page
 149 of 173 
Next page End Contents 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154  

My advice would be to avoid retaliating against the person who hurt you. Escalating
the angry emotions by “striking back” is unwise and even dangerous.
Remember this person has already hurt you; they might take an opportunity to hurt
you even more. When the emotions are intense and the risks are high, the best
place to settle the conflicts is often in a courtroom. Legal action can settle the
score. Please refer back to a previous section about the danger in domestic violence.
Don’t let your emotions push you into something rash.
I don’t want to make the mistake of over-selling forgiveness. It is not for every
conflict; it will not work with every person. The search engines will present you with
many religious Websites that advocate forgiveness in very positive terms, but they
usually do not provide scientific evidence of outcome. The data about forgiveness
is not in yet. Fortunately, several books, some by philosophers, have questioned
the appropriateness and the effectiveness of forgiveness. I’d strongly encourage
anyone struggling or having trouble making a decision about forgiving someone who
has hurt them badly to do some deeper reading. Lamb, S. and Murphy, J. (2002) in
Before Forgiving have collected articles from a wide range of scholars (the book is
heavier reading than most pop psych or self-help books, but it will give you
important information). The articles in their 2002 book raise some profound
questions about forgiveness in therapy and they suggest other possible ways to
resolve hurt and very angry feelings. For example, Lamb & Murphy point out that
hardly anyone argues that Jews should forgive the Germans for the Holocaust; yet,
forgiving is quickly recommended for almost all other offenses. There seems to be
some extreme of evil beyond which forgiveness is not acceptable or maybe beyond
our power to forgive. Murphy (2003) has another book about “getting even” when
the situation is beyond forgiving. He is careful to mention the dangers of trying to
get even.
Murphy also raises the question of whether forgiveness and letting go of resentment
are consistent with being respectful of your self...if the behavior was truly awful,
maybe it doesn’t deserve being forgiven. Enright ((2001) argues both methods
(forgiveness and reduced anger) can reflect self-respect in the victim but Murphy
believes some victims may also have had so little self-respect that they were not
appropriately irate in the first place or perhaps the lack of resentment may mean
that the anger has not been resolved.
Some people, including Spring (2004) and an article by Lamb (2002), would argue
that in many cases terrible and violent spouses should not be forgiven. They state
that many women refuse to forgive husbands and ex-husbands. (In our society,
there may not be strong social pressure to forgive wayward or abusive husbands.
What about wayward and abusive wives?) So, these therapists and others look for
alternatives to forgiveness. Lamb (2002), Judith Boss (2005), and Janice Haaken
(2000) suggest compassion, which may be calming, but does not require victims to
give up resentment. That is, if there can be some other way, like “compassion,” to
arrive at an understanding of the origin of the abuser’s problems, or “acceptance” in
the sense that one can accept the reprehensible behavior was “lawful” or a reflection
of psychopathology or “human nature,” then the bad behavior is still irritating and
troubling but tolerable. These authors offer advice about reducing your strong anger
so you are healthier, without fully forgiving the wrong-doer.
Forgiveness is often a hard decision, subject to change, requiring very difficult
behaviors to be carried out, maybe taking months or years to complete. It isn’t just
the offender saying “I’m sorry, dear” and the victim saying “Oh, I forgive you.” In
Previous page Top Next page

« Back